A keyframe is a reference point in an animation that provides information about the subject's position, shape, and size. These frames help animators control the transition from one location to another, and also set timing limits to determine the speed of the animation. Both traditional and computer animation rely on the use of keyframes to outline critical components of an animated sequence, and an animation can include any number of these references, depending on the length.

In a simple example of a keyframe, the animator might want to create a representation of a point being dragged from one side of the screen to the other. This requires two drawings to show the starting and ending position of the point.

With computer animation, the computer can perform rendering to show the waypoint using parameters set by the animator. More frames can create a smoother transition, fewer frames and staggered timing can also be jerky.

Hand-drawn animations require animators to draw in each frame between keyframes. This can be a time consuming process. This type of traditional animation is rare in most production facilities, but students can try it while learning about animation techniques and practices. Restoration of animated movies may require the insertion of new frames, for example, to replace damaged or missing frames.

Users can control blocking, motion within the animation using a series of keyframes. Each frame shows where people and objects should be placed throughout the scene and provides data on who and what should move.

Creating and adjusting each keyframe is labor-intensive and requires continuity checks for consistency. For example, a table should not move between keyframes unless the angle changes or a moving table is part of the action. Assistants can review the frameworks for inconsistencies and other issues that could cause the animation to appear abnormal.